Sunday, February 26, 2006

Lounge Along With Mitch (or, Mellow Out with Mitch)

It's funny, the way we can hear what we expect to hear. That's what happened to my ears, anyway, when they took in these ultra-smooth Mitch Miller tracks from the early 1950s: to wit, they heard strings. Why? Because easy-listening records have strings. As we all know. So, they heard them. Front and center. Or, rather, back and center.

Then, while I was copying composer credits from the album in question (Mmmmitch!, Columbia CL 601, 1954), my eyes noticed that the tracks were credited to "Mitch Miller with Horns and Chorus." And I exclaimed to myself, "Hey--no strings. No wonder these sound a little different." Yes, indeed, chicken-feed (a local expression that does not show up on Google).

Because I associate strings with EZ, I heard them. Even though they weren't there. Psychologists have a word for this: plain nuts. I mean, two words.

Anyway, this music functions beautifully as Hugo-Winterhalter-style easy listening, and without strings, thank you (save for piano, harp, and--I think--Celeste). I like this stuff better than MM's more brash "sing-along" style, though I don't mind the latter--it had its place, especially on Guy Mitchell's records. But here's a mellower Mitch than you might know or expect:

The Sea of the Moon (Freed--Brown, from Pagan Love Song), Mitch Miller's Horns and Chorus, 1952. From Mmmmitch!, Columbia CL 601. (So, Miller's singers could do something besides shout! Step aside, Anita Kerr. Astonishing, the stuff that had evolved before hi-fi sets became popular.)

Cuban Nightingale (Sun Sun Babae; George R. Martinez), Mitch Miller's Horns and Chorus, plus Stan Freeman on harpsichord, 1952. (The chorus in "sing-along" mode, and Freeman in virtuoso mode. Killer exotica!)

Oriental Polka, Mitch Miller's Horns (and percussion!), with Stan Freeman on harpsichord, 1953. ("La Choy makes Chinese food....")

Song of Delilah (Livingston--R. Evans--Victor Young), Mitch Miller's Horns and Chorus. Vocal by Burt Taylor; oboe solo by Mitch Miller, 1952.

Autumn Leaves (Johnny Mercer--Joseph Kosma), Mitch Miller's Horns and Chorus, 1952. English horn solo by Miller. (Best of the bunch, in VL's opinion. Predates Roger William's hit version by three years.)

I just noticed that (my storage spot) isn't retaining the track info for recently-uploaded tracks. This is probably a temporary "bug." Meanwhile, however, listeners can again play files at the site. Cool!

So far,'s latest changes have been for the better, by far. And I don't object at all to getting 400 percent greater storage space for no extra cost! Can't complain. (Though I usually manage to find a way. (<:)



Anonymous Byron Los Angeles said...

Hi Lee, Welcome back to the Lounge.
I like the way MM & the Gang do
Peg-O-My-Heart and The Bowery.
Oh-well, gotta go to sleep now, So I can wake up to some music I possibly haven't woke up to before
Byron Los Angeles

3:23 AM  
Blogger Lee Hartsfeld said...


Thanks! Great to be back.


11:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the first pressing of this LP and it isn't called MMMMMitch!, it's titled "Harpsichord, Oboe and English Horn." It has a completely different cover and is pressed on thick heavy vinyl, almost like a 78. Instead of the six-eye Columbia label, it has a solid red one.

I like this album, too, especially "The Sea of the Moon." It's a nice ensemble effort like Lawrence Welk's albums of the same era, but Mitch doesn't only wave a baton -- he plays the horn and oboe solos himself. Mitch was still going strong last I heard, living just down the hall from Morty Craft in the same NY apartment building.

4:03 PM  

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